WEE1 inhibition sensitizes basal breast cancer cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis

Sireesha V. Garimella, Andrea Rocca, Stanley Lipkowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


TRAIL is a member of the TNF super family and has been shown to induce apoptosis in many cancer cell lines but not in normal cells. Breast cancers can be divided into different subgroups on the basis of the expression of estrogen and progesterone receptors, HER-2 amplification, or the lack of these three markers (known as triple-negative or basal-type breast cancer). Our group and others have shown previously that triplenegative breast cancer cell lines are sensitive to TRAIL whereas others are relatively resistant. In an earlier study, we reported that inhibition of WEE1, a cell-cycle checkpoint regulator, causes increased cell death in breast cancer cell lines. In this study, we tested the effects of WEE1 inhibition on TRAIL-mediated apoptosis in breast cancer cell lines. Pretreatment with WEE1 inhibitor or knockdown of WEE1 increased the toxicity of TRAIL in the basal/triple-negative breast cancer cell lines compared with WEE1 inhibitor or TRAIL treatment alone. The enhanced cell death is attributed to increased surface expression of death receptors, increased caspase activation which could be blocked by the pan-caspase inhibitor, Z-VAD-FMK, thereby rescuing cells from caspase-mediated apoptosis. The cell death was initiated primarily by caspase-8 because knockdown of caspase-8 and not of any other initiator caspases (i.e., caspase-2, -9, or -10) rescued cells from WEE1 inhibitor-sensitized TRAIL-induced cell death. Taken together, the data suggest that the combination of WEE1 inhibitor and TRAIL could provide a novel combination for the treatment of basal/triple-negative breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-85
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Cancer Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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